Tried and Tested

Going against the tide in a tumultuous year, Lamana PH launches its first all-original lineup of furniture solutions with the help of local talent

Interview Patrick Kasingsing 
Images Lamana PH

Bin Form, a storage-slash-planter-slash-side table by Karl Castro

It’s been more than a year since we last talked. We now find ourselves in a pandemic, with a new US president, preceded by a period wracked with natural catastrophes and social upheavals left and right. Despite all this, how is Lamana faring? What changes in the studio have you initiated to enable it to meet the challenges of our new ‘normal’?

Jar: The pandemic has had everyone spending more time at home. We noticed that even during the first three months of strict community quarantine back in March, people were still placing orders of our Ishinomaki Laboratory furniture line even though we didn’t know when the quarantine would end. Our clients were willing to wait. It seemed like most were thinking of ways to make the spaces they were living in and now working in more efficient.

Kay: In addition to what Jar said, we thought of accepting orders even while under ECQ because it was also our first-year anniversary in April and we offered a discount. This was warmly received and orders came in. This gave the team the encouragement that we needed at that time. We were all looking forward to going back to the workshop. By May 18, Rizal entered GCQ, and we went back to work. We gave the craftsmen the option to stay in, which allowed them to lessen exposure outside. As they spent more time at the workshop, we noticed that they gained more knowledge of the products, the wood, and the tools.

Bin Form lid used as a tray

We’ve caught wind of a new initiative by the studio called Lamana Originals. we remember you teasing this in our previous interview but to the uninitiated, what is the initiative all about and what does it set to achieve?

Jar: During the pandemic, we felt the need to launch our own line of products called Lamana Originals where we worked with young and passionate people to design pieces that reflected what everyone needed during this time.

How did you go about selecting your initial mix of collaborators?

Jar: If you’ve read our last interview with Kanto, [you know that] we started out as the exclusive Philippine manufacturer of Ishinomaki Laboratory under their Made in Local initiative. And if you know Ishinomaki Laboratory, they really are all about inspiring people to do things themselves and spreading the spirit of DIY.

This really was the spark that made us think: What more can we do with our current skill set? So we gathered people who we thought would create a great first collection for us. They all come from different backgrounds and each of them has a different story as to why we chose them; Previous experience in furniture design was not a prerequisite. What did we look out for? Passion.

What is the process like in the creation of a Lamana Original? Who decides what objects to create and how much independence does Lamana give its partner creators in realizing their designs?

Kay: Since most of this happened during the pandemic, we hardly saw our collaborators in person. Most of our conversations and exchange of ideas were online and the only time we would meet was when the prototype was ready. But because most of the designers are our friends, we get each other. I think it’s so important that the designer and manufacturer are in sync.

It’s all been easy so far. We give the designer 100% independence on his/her design. Our only request is to align it with our existing Ishinomaki pieces – straightforward, purposeful, and timeless. Of course, it has to be viable for local production. For some, we suggested particular products to consider, and for the others, the products are totally their idea. We even consult them on the selling price. As their names will be attached to the items, we want them to feel comfortable with the pricing too. All of us agreed that we wanted the Lamana Originals to be more affordable even if it meant less profit. This way our well-made designer products are accessible, not just aspirational, even for the younger market.

How was the collaboration process like with the first few product releases you’ve had? Any memorable quotes or anecdotes from partner creators on their experience designing and creating for Lamana?

Kay: The first three products had been so well-received that people were placing orders within the first few hours. When we launched the Bin Form storage-slash-planter, we shot photos on the same day—just a few hours before the launch! We were working with Karl, the designer, over the phone and we would edit each other’s writing for the captions. We were cramming like students! I can’t remember why we chose that day to launch; We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. But, you see, we already had the product so why delay the launch?

At exactly 8:00 PM, we introduced the Bin Form and received a warm welcome. The designers would always thank us for the opportunity but actually, we are truly grateful that we have them to work with. Their talents and creativity enable our brand to grow.

Plate Bed by Tommy of Tokyo Simple Life and the Slots Mirror by Frances Cabatuando

Aside from the enlisting of partner creatives from various fields, are there special materials or processes that further set apart a Lamana Original?

Jar: For a good amount of the Lamana Originals, we are offering a more cost-efficient wood type. This makes the whole collection more accessible. Though the aesthetic is grounded on our work with Ishinomaki Laboratory (deliberate so that our clients won’t feel alienated by the new collection), we also felt freer to try out new techniques we wouldn’t have been able to use normally.

Your partner brand Ishinomaki Lab was born out of a natural disaster and we can’t help but compare it to your decision to launch the first products under the initiative in the middle of the pandemic. Why launch Lamana Originals now?

Jar: Although we always knew we would launch something on our own, the pandemic accelerated the process. I think it is the same with Ishinomaki Laboratory. Sometimes you aren’t really doing something with business in mind but as a response to what is happening right now – as a way to survive. We were witnesses to the trends that marked our new normal: working from home, online classes for the kids, food deliveries, etc. Our friend at Makerspace, Gino Carino, approached us about making the Opus that his team designed. The Opus is a laptop riser with clever slits to place a tablet or phone and was a reply to everyone working from home and doing video calls. We thought it was important to look into that.

Plank Lounge Chair by Brian Ver

Homeowners’ relationship with their furniture pieces has deepened as the pandemic shut everyone indoors. As makers (and users) of Lamana products, how has your relationship and appreciation of your pieces changed by the pandemic? Why is it beneficial to invest not just in functional pieces but well-made and beautiful ones, especially in the long run?

Jar: All of our pieces are made from solid wood and designed to last. We hope that when you buy a piece, it also grows with you through the years. This was key when we were developing our collection. Even when we get past the challenges of the pandemic, we hope that the pieces live a useful life beyond that. I think we were able to prove during the pandemic that the things that are in our spaces also contribute to our mood, our creativity, and our outlook.

Our heirlooms issue is a celebration of the valuable and beautiful things we inherit from the past. How does Lamana, as a wood-crafting studio, help foster appreciation of wood-crafting and the age-old traditions that keep it alive? Finally, are there causes or activities that you support or pursue that help promulgates the aim of preserving traditional wood-crafting practices?

Kay: It’s amazing how 3D printers can churn you out a table in minutes or how an assembly line can make hundreds of plastic chairs in an hour. We have nothing against technology, but the beauty and inherent value of a handmade object are both undeniable and unparalleled. The skills of a craftsman that builds our stools for example was acquired through many years of mastering the craft. All the hours—and with hours, I mean days—spent to create wooden furniture. From preparing the wood to assembling and finishing, each step has to be done with utmost dedication, meticulousness, and love for what you do for a beautiful product to emerge.

Before the pandemic, we were able to hold workshops that taught participants how to build one of our stools and simple furniture pieces using offcuts. We are glad to be able to share our knowledge with the community.  Our participants come from various backgrounds. We’ve had a lawyer, a climate change consultant, architects, a high school student, a teacher, a stay-at-home mom all wanting to learn something new. When life is normal again, we hope to partner with schools and be able to hold woodworking workshops for high school students. •

Makerspace Manila’s Opus Desk Riser

The full range of Lamana Originals over at

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